Self-determined motivation, social identification and the mental health of adolescent male team sport participants

Publication Name

Journal of Applied Sport Psychology


This study assessed whether participants’ social identification with their team moderated the association between self-determined motivation and mental health and wellbeing among adolescent male team sports participants. Participants were 383 adolescent male team sports participants. Moderated regression analyses showed that, at average and higher levels of social identification, self-determined motivation was negatively associated with psychological distress. At higher levels of social identification, self-determined motivation was positively associated with wellbeing. At lower levels of social identification, there was no relationship between self-determined motivation and psychological distress or wellbeing. The mental health benefits associated with participation in organized sports may systematically vary according to levels of social identification, with the association magnified among those with higher levels of social identification. Attention to social identification processes in youth sport may be beneficial, and this should be tested using experimental designs.  Lay Summary: Self-determined forms of motivation are associated with better mental health outcomes among adolescent male sport participants. These outcomes may be magnified when sport participants strongly identify with their sports teams. Practical implications Self-determined forms of motivation may be the first focus for coaches and sport psychology practitioners. Where self-determination is high, enhancing social identification among sport participants could provide extra benefits for mental health.

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